Dollars and sense

By Todd Cohen

Millions of Americans are hurting, and charity needs to help repair what is wrong.

Charity is geared to dress social wounds, but it must do more by pushing to fix flawed public policies that invest too little to meet urgent social needs, and fail to attack their roots.

While critical, policy change faces big hurdles.

Government menaces charities that dare criticize it. Smug and fat organizations have tainted the trust all charities and funders need to be effective voices for change. And Americans’ intolerance for cultural values not their own infects any debate over policy.

America needs a policy debate that is broad, deep and civil, and charity needs to foster a marketplace that lets ideas flow and compete freely.

To earn the stature they need to broker civic change, charities and funders first need to change themselves.

Charities and foundations need to lose their righteous attitude, recognize their weaknesses, get rid of programs, board members and staff that do not work, and find the courage to ask for or provide the operating support that truly is needed.

Then charities and foundations need to raise their voices in a serious and civil competition for civic change.

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